EDINBURGH WINE CLUB
THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 2011
|According to the Bible, Luke understood that old wine was
finer than new wine. Although there is some evidence of ageing wine in
Ancient Greece it is likely the Romans were the first connoisseurs to
appreciate aged fine wines. Certain wines were suitable for ageing
because of their high sugar content and these were stored in sealed
earthenware jars. The best Falernian wines required 15 to 20 years
before they were considered at their best and were sometimes kept for
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the appreciation of aged wines
disappeared for a millennium.
The thin, low-alcohol wines of northern Europe were good for only a few months, after which they turned sour and were sold cheap. The only wines that could be enjoyed a little longer were the sweeter and more alcoholic wines of the Mediterranean such as Malmsey and Sack. By the 16th century, exceptions to this rule could be found in the casks of top quality Riesling wine kept beneath German palaces. These wines were preserved through a combination of sweetness and acidity, the coldness of the cellar, and topping up the casks to avoid oxidation.
The major breakthrough though was the introduction of corks and glass bottles in the 17th century in Britain that led to the rediscovery of ageing wines, in particular the newly fashionable Port and Claret. The science of wine ageing is poorly understood. For red wines it is believed to be the result of the polymerisation of tannins and flavour compounds. Over time these combine to form larger molecules that precipitate as sediment once they reach a certain size causing the wine to become paler in colour. At the same time as these visible changes occur, the wine’s flavour and aroma also changes. A wide range of molecules known as flavour precursors that were attached to glucose detach themselves (through a natural, and time-dependent, process of hydrolysis) and contribute their individual flavour characteristics to the older wine. The oxidation of some compounds and the interaction of increasingly complex acids and alcohols also play a role. The rate at which all of these occur is influenced by a number of factors including storage temperature, cork (or other stopper) condition, pH level and sulphur dioxide level.
If our understanding of red wine maturation is incomplete, even less is known about the ageing process in white wines. Recent research suggests that as with red wines the hydrolysis of glycosides (molecules combining a sugar with another compound often known as a flavour precursor) is important in developing varietal character. White wines begin life in bottle with a much lower tally of phenolics than red wines, although those phenolics they have strongly influence colour and apparent astringency. White wines become browner with age, presumably because of the slow oxidation of their phenolic content. They may also throw a sediment, although very, very much less than a red wine of similar quality.
Bodegas Olvena Chardonnay (equal best white)
This modern winery was only established in 1999 with the planting of
new vineyards and the purchase of existing vineyards. Their first
vintage was released in 2002. Located in the Aragon region of north
eastern Spain the Somontano area is located in the foothills of the
Pyrenees. Although hot in summer the combination of the cooling effect
of the mountains, plentiful cool breezes and vineyards located at a
variety of different altitudes enables the production of a variety of
styles of wines, including crisp whites.
2007 Officially rated as “Excellent” the cool summer helped
maintain acidity levels.
2008 Officially rated as “Very Good” although heavy
rainfall during summer reduced yields.
2009 Officially rated as “Very Good” with a warm, dry